VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
UN expert to examine Canada's 'tragedy' of 600 murdered or missing women
BY SUSAN LAZARK, THE PROVINCE DECEMBER 13, 2011
The United Nations is holding an inquiry into the hundreds of murdered and missing aboriginal women and will send representatives to Canada to interview victims’ families and government officials, two Canadian women’s groups announced Tuesday.
But Canada’s minister for the status of the women said in Parliament Tuesday that the inquiry has not been called.
“At this stage we’ve received a letter from the committee at the United Nations, and we’re responding to that,” Rona Ambrose said during Question Period. “They (committee members) will be discussing this issue in February, but at this point, there is no inquiry.”
Her statement was in response to a question from NDP MP Linda Duncan, who accused the government of “doing nothing” to address violence against aboriginal women and children.
“Now the UN has to step in to do the government’s job,” said Duncan.
Ambrose told the House Ottawa has launched a strategy to deal with the underlying issues of racism and poverty affecting aboriginal women, including a new RCMP centre for missing persons and a national website for public tips to help locate missing women.
Ambrose wasn’t available for comment and her spokeswoman referred questions about the UN committee’s letter to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.
The Province is currently waiting for his call.
The two women’s groups issued a press release Tuesday detailing that the UN was holding the inquiry into a documented list of more than 600 aboriginal women and girls who have been murdered or disappeared over the past 20 years.
The groups’ spokeswomen said it was just a matter of time before the UN investigated the issue.
“We know that it’s happening and we’re ecstatic that it’s happening,” said Merritt-based Sharon McIvor of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action.
Claudette Dumont-Smith of the Native Women’s Association of Canada said: “We have heard from very reliable sources that this will be happening.”
The groups requested the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, made up of 23 independent experts from around the world, investigate what the groups believe to be “very serious violations” of the UN’s convention on the elimination of discrimination against women.
McIvor and Dumont-Smith said the letter sent to the federal government is the next step in having the committee come to Canada to interview victims’ families, government officials and non-government organizations.
They said Canada will be expected to co-operate with the committee’s investigation.
McIvor said the list of 600 women is growing every day, adding that the number indicates an aboriginal women or girl is killed or has gone missing on average once every two weeks or less for the past 20 years.
“If anything, that number is low,” she said.
NWAC said it has documented all 600 disappearances and murders but can’t release a list of names or the ratio of murders to disappearances.
“This is out of respect to the families who we’ve worked with, as well as to honour the memory of our aboriginal women and girls who remain missing, or sadly, who have been found murdered,” said Irene Goodwin.
McIvor said the government and police aren’t doing enough to protect aboriginal women and girls, who are vulnerable to attack and abuse because “agencies turn a blind eye” toward them because they’re native.
For instance, she said, the missing woman case that got the most attention of the three dozen missing mostly native women in Northern B.C. over the years was Nicole Hoar, a white tree planter.
NWAC said Canadian aboriginal women “experience rates of violence 3.5 times higher than non-aboriginal women and young aboriginal women are five times more likely to die of violence.”
The committee looked at similar violations in Mexico five years ago and members were invited to the country to interview victim’s families, government officials and non-government organizations.
Its report spelled out the steps that Mexico should take regarding the individual cases and the systemic discrimination underlying the violations.
Mexican women’s groups say the report helped to spur government action.
“We hope to see the same result here in Canada,” said McIvor.
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Updated: August 21, 2016